AOPA President Phil Boyer and Alaska
Airmen's Association President Felix Maguire
Flying in Alaska was at the top of the agenda today as Felix Maguire, president of the Alaska Airmen's Association, visited AOPA's Frederick, Maryland, headquarters. Maguire and AOPA President Phil Boyer discussed the new VFR route to Russia, the Capstone project, and changes to the field approval process that are making it difficult to modify and upgrade aircraft to meet the demands of Alaskan flying.
The FAA recently issued a notam opening a VFR route from Alaska to Russia. Route B-369 runs from Nome to Povideniya. The Alaska Airmen's Association worked with the FAA to develop a route that minimizes the distance over open water.
Maguire told Boyer about the continuing success of the Capstone demonstration project in the Bethel area. The project has now been expanded into southeast Alaska around Juneau. Capstone provides weather and traffic information directly to the cockpit via a datalink and allows air traffic controllers to view traffic (using a system called ADS-B, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) in areas where radar is unavailable. The Alaska Airmen's Association is now looking at changes to the system that would allow pilots to display weather and traffic on a handheld device that could be moved from aircraft to aircraft. That would reduce the cost of the system.
One issue of continuing concern is changes to the FAA's field approval process. Many aircraft in Alaska are modified for the unique flying conditions there. In the past, many of those modifications were accomplished using a relatively simple and quick process using Form 337. But with the proposed changes (the so-called change 16), many of those modifications would now require a supplemental type certificate (STC). That takes more time and is more expensive. And in Alaska, there is concern that there aren't the required resources in place to issue STCs in a timely manner.
Maguire briefed Boyer on the continued growth of the Alaska Airmen's Association, a success he attributed in part to the efforts of Executive Director Dee Hanson, who is also the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for the Lake Hood Seaplane Base (LHD). Membership has more than doubled in the past five years.
Maguire noted that the Alaska association had modeled itself after AOPA and praised AOPA for its support.
AOPA President Boyer cited the Alaska Airmen's Association as an example of how a statewide pilots' organization can work with AOPA to address the unique needs of pilots in that state.
The Alaska Airmen's Association will be sponsoring the 2003 Alaska State Aviation Conference and Trade Show May 17-18 in the Fedex maintenance hangar at Anchorage International Airport. The free show is expected to attract more than 15,000 pilots.